Thank you all for coming today. We invited you all today to mark three things - our wedding, Damian’s 50th birthday and his recovery. I believe Mr Barry is going to talk about the wedding, and Michael is going to lead us in wishing Damian a happy birthday later, so I want to say a few words about his ongoing recovery.
There are very many people we need to thank for so many things, but I want to pick out some very special people who have been so important in getting us to where we are today.
The last two and a half years have been pretty tough for us and we wouldn’t be here without our families. They have been incredibly supportive even when things have been really difficult - trekking down to Birmingham week in, week out, just to be with us. I know it was as hard for them as it was for us at times, but down they came and them just being with us gave us strength.
The support and love of our friends and workmates made the whole experience bearable. We were both incredibly lucky with our respective employers - Damian’s colleagues regularly came to see him and his company was very generous in keeping him on the payroll for as long as they could. This school is much more to me than just my place of work, and the people who work in the music department are so much more than colleagues. When the Headmaster talks about Bromsgrove School being like a family, he is right. The support and help they continue to give us proves that to me and we will always be grateful.
We will never be able to thank the dozens of doctors, nurses and therapists who have helped Damian throughout the last couple of years. Some of them are here today. Thank you for coming. There aren’t the words to say just how much respect and gratitude we have for everything you’ve done. The staff at the QE saved Damian’s life and the amazing people at Moseley Hall started putting it back together again whilst, at the same time, making sure I was OK. Robbie, Peter, Ruth, Louise and Jo continue his long haul back to health. We owe you all everything. Thank you.
I want also to thank some very special friends - I would be here all afternoon if I listed everything they’ve done for us so I won’t but I want them to know just how grateful we are. Jill kept me fed and watered (and has made the cakes for today). Darren, Jon and Anthony kept me sane. Jo was always there when I needed a coffee. Michael - my oldest friend here - has been a rock, taking me for meals and listening to me drivel on endlessly. But there are two people who have been there throughout and without whom I would not have survived. Neil and Mary. Neil was by my side in the very darkest moments - within half an hour of me arriving at A&E on day one, he was there. Mary flew over from Northern Ireland the next day and has been coming regularly ever since. Thank you.
That’s enough of that - I’m going to hand over to Neil. The man who can always be relied upon to oblige. And certainly, if it’s an innuendo you want, without hesitation he will give you one.
Thank you for your warm hand. And we’re off!
Ladies and Gentlemen, and hairdressers, welcome to the marriage of Jon and Damian. Like me this may be your first experience of a same sex marriage. You may have all sorts of questions, who takes whom up the aisle? who throws the bouquet? Who fakes the headache later?. Don’t worry, it’s all pretty much the same as a mixed sex marriage, just without the frock; a pity as they both have faces that would suit a veil.
We welcome guests from all corners of the globe. Northern Ireland, Germany, USA, Redditch.
We also honour our absent musical guests: Ann Dante – too far to walk. Ana Crusis – thought it might be too upbeat.
Ben Marcato - (yes, keep going, I’ve got another 50 of these).didn’t want to stand out in the crowd. Oh please yourselves.
I’d like to give a bit of background on how we have arrived at this happy occasion today.
Damian grew up in Chorley, Lancashire. Chorley boasts amongst its celebrity citizens Sir Henry Tate, sugar merchant and philanthropist, responsible for establishing the Tate Gallery. Chorley has beautiful landmarks such as Astley Hall, as well as vibrant Tuesday markets. Jon comes from Gedling in Nottingham. Wikipedia research tells me that there is a Sainsbury's Local on Arnold Lane and a Co-operative supermarket on Gedling Road. Well worth a visit. (this is for years of Redditch jibes!).
Actually for the sake of balance, I was surprised to read that Chorley was named in the Telegraph in 2017 as one of the 12 unhappiest places to live in the UK. Mind you, it does kind of explain it.
It seems early on Jon and Damian had many things in common. Damian loved talking to people right from the very early years, even with baby talk. Jon too was a very early talker but had a habit of dropping the family in it, particularly repeating comments made by his dad about the neighbours!Maria, Damian’s sister, tells me that Damian loved amateur dramatics….. fancy that, and at many a birthday party wrote, produced and starred in a play. Props , scenery , costumes and even a stage, all designed by Damian. Jon also kept his family entertained with mimicry, making a film with school friends all about their teachers, with a particularly uncanny impression of Miss Sutton the History teacher, I believe. We’ll get that out of him later. One of Damian’s favourite birthday presents was a magic set. Do you remember? (Don’t make me do the rabbit joke.. no..no…I won’t) It seems Jon could also make things disappear as was proved when he forgot to bring back his French exchange student after a day trip to York. Apparently Jon thought he was on the other coach; suspicious I say….well he’s never had a good word to say about the French!
Of course, musical pursuits were important to both. Damian’s fondly remembered early piano teacher was blind. Jon’s was deaf. Damian played for the Scout Gang Show. In fact if you ask him nicely he’ll show you his woggle. Jon’s sophisticated musical taste was apparent from an early age. Mrs Dunlop tells me that they were often woken up at 5am with “Long Haired Lover from Liverpool” blasting from his bedroom. Do you remember it? (sing?)
Anyway, moving on, dripping with Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent, these two fresh faced students set off to study at Birmingham School of Music as it was known. Of course it is now the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
I’m a bit sketchy on how they met there. Anyway, Ted knows. Where’s Ted? Buy him a drink and I’m sure he’ll tell you; warts and all; have they cleared up by the way? And so, following in the footsteps of other great musical unions; Robert and Clara Schumann, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, Peters and Lee, our happy couple was formed.
Moving forward a few years:
I first met Jon when he came to work here at Bromsgrove School back in 1990. He was very shy at first. We never saw him at breaks; (in fact we wondered if was moonlighting with a part-time job somewhere else; we decided he was a stripper down at the Coach and Horses, didn’t we Luise? Yes, we made up a whole character; Rubber Man we called you, because of the Dunlop name. However, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t that, but that he was nipping of for a ciggie. When I came out too as a fellow smoker, we enjoyed clandestine trips to Safeway and back for a smoke.
A couple of puffs at break-time kept us going until lunch.
Our friendship soon blossomed and I met Damian shortly afterwards, and the rest is history.
We’ve enjoyed many happy times over the years.
There have been particularly significant events;
In 2006 Jon and Damian were civilly partnered. Oh yes…..didn’t you know? Yes, today’s just about finishing off that dinner service.
2014 was a great year with job changes for both and a celebratory trip to NY.
Of course we all know the last few years really haven’t been easy…..but you know once Brexit settles I’m sure it will be ok.
I’d like to thank you on behalf of J&D for the presents they’ve received. The question of a suitable gift was a tough one, and those who have visited their apartment in Birmingham will know that they really don’t need any more tat.
I thought to myself “what can I give them….poor as I am” and it came to me at an early wedding planning committee meeting where J&D said they had been watching old Up Pompeii episodes and in particular the odes. And I thought, do you know what? I think I could write them an ode!
Those of you who remember poor Nauseous in Up Pompeii, know that he struggled to find a rhyme. I’m sorry to report that I have the same affliction, but it comes from the heart, so please bear with me:
Here it is:
Ode to Jon and Damian
Jon and Damian, I wish you both a life of fun and frolics
Always together, side by side, like a well hung pair of curtains.
Be good to each other and follow a path that is never cruel or heinous
Be strong, be firm, be solid as a proud upstanding citizen.
Remember relationships, like water, are never without ripples
But if they sag, they just need a firm hold, and tweaking around the edges
(You should see the verse I left out)
Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, the love we see is something for which everyone hankers
So join me in wishing all the best to this right old pair of lovebirds.
(I’m sorry Mrs Dunlop, Mr Farrell, they make me do it! I wanted to read a Shakespeare sonnet, but no…..)
Actually, I am aware that heinous is also pronounced ‘haynus’, but I couldn’t find a rhyme for that either…..
Enough nonsense from me.
Jon and Damian, we love you not just with our hearts but with…(Mr Martin heckles "our souls")…..alright there’s no need for that, I’ve nearly finished!!
Jon and Damian, you are very special to me and to all your guests here. We all love you very much and wish you a long and happy life together.
Those of you who are still able, please be upstanding for a toast to our happy couple.
Who knew I would be standing up and delivering a speech today?
Two years ago I had my stroke. It has been an uphill struggle, but here I am, getting better and better and celebrating my 50thbirthday and wedding day.
And now to the thank yous.
Dad and Maria, thank you for being here for me.
Mum, Richard, Alison, Emily, James and Steph thank you so much.
Darren, Anthony and Jon, important friends, who have supported us, while making us laugh and enjoy life.
Thank you to Neil, we have known each other for such a long time, and you have always been steadfast for me.
Thank you to Michael Garbett and your ongoing support, a friend for 30 years.
Last, but by no means least, to my husband Jon. I can’t put into words how I feel.
You’ve been there for me through thick and thin. Your support and love over the last 2 years has been incredible.
Thank you again for everything. I love you with all my heart.
So, raise a glass please, for a better and better future.
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, if you don’t know me - I’m Michael, an old friend of Damian’s, and since today is his 50th birthday I have been asked to speak about him this afternoon.
I have known Damian since he first came to live in Birmingham over 30 years ago now. He came here to the Conservatoire to study music where of course he met Jon. In need of money (as students are) and being a gifted and serviceable singer, Damian came to join the Birmingham Oratory Choir where we met. I had been singing there for many years. We were a pretty accomplished outfit of singers, performing a huge repertoire of historic Catholic Church music - and I think we were the best paid singers in Birmingham at the time - which helped.
Damian was a diffident, shy & modest little soul, who looked as though butter wouldn’t melt - and had never been kissed. But he smiled, sang, apologised and was generally a dear little chap who was usually in the right bar, pretty well on the right note - even though he sang Latin with Northern vowels…
However, I soon realised that this modest and retiring façade was only millimetres thin - and that beneath the veneer was a Hollywood film star ready to spring forth, fully equipped with style, razzmatazz and the attitude…
It was brought home to me one evening when having supper at their place, Jon said: “Just look at this… it’s him in his old school production.” and clonking one of those ancient video things into a vast black box, there, on the screen flickered… Damian performing…. In a production of ‘Oliver’ – it wasn’t up to much, but in a reprise of the songs, there on the platform, at the front, leading a dismal chorus, HIGH KICKING round the stage was Damien … “I’d do anything for you dear, anything for you mean everything to me…” it was stunning, delightful, like a nun from behind, but when she turns round it’s Bet Midler in full voice. In later years, whenever I’ve had a singing pupil who wanted to perform from Oliver, I always say to myself, ‘here we go, another aspiring Nancy,’ …and I think of Damian…
Those were great years -all the music at the Oratory, and they were the decades of parties too… garden parties, drinks parties, dinner parties, bridge parties - the concerts, formal & impromptu …any excuse really - Christmas, New Year, birthdays, VE day, Trafalgar Day, Jubilees - so many singers, pianists and performers, and Damian always in the thick of it at the keyboard or punching out that rich Basso profundo to effortlessly anchor the line. Singing, composing, arranging, performing - Always with a smile and laughter, always a great evening… This is the guy whom you NEEDED at a party, who would burst into the room, not shy at all, laughing and chatting with everyone, knowing and witty. No party would go quite so well without his bright spirit.
We seemed to be the winners in the lottery of life, Damian & Jon, Egil & me - with our health, delightful friends, beautiful homes, good jobs and someone worthy to love & to come home to. Civil Partnered when that was offered to us as well… Nothing to do but to smile & laugh our merry way into grumpy old age, with more holidays and dinners and a glass of something delicious to hand… everything you hoped, everything you assumed, everything you presumed was in place…
Well, as all of you know, a little over 2 years ago, with no warning Damian suffered multiple catastrophic strokes rendering him with severely restricted movement and little comprehensible speech. Out went the singer, out went the accomplished accompanist & musician, out went the wit and the raconteur…
Bang … there you go…nothing to do but to reel with the blows… I’m sure we all felt it in one way or another…and for those most immediately involved, it’s a hard place, a very hard place indeed…
A couple of months later I came to know what it’s like to have my life turned over and to be likewise tested, for my Egil died quite suddenly in the QE from complications associated with a cancer that we thought he might be getting over - and I too learned that disasters happen, and that there is no going back…
.. all we assumed, all we hoped for, all we presumed…
In such a time one is tested – as Damian has been tested. And from a dark place, a spark (…if you have it within you…) is reignited and the spirit, the courage & furious determination may gradually, little by little RETURN. Month in & month out, with successes and set-backs, life is slowly re-established, nourished by the deep love of a devoted partner in Jon. A light burns brighter… Every time I see him it is growing distinctly under Jon’s caring & watchful eyes.
With support from his extraordinarily kind, gifted and caring physiotherapists and his speech therapists (some of whom are here today), my darling friend Damian, continues to progress, and again I see that sparkle in those wicked eyes. We have even played a few little duets on the piano, haven’t we dear?... I’m not sure we’ve quite made 4 beats in every bar, but that might be me, you know I could never count 1, 2, 3, something something…
So here we arrive at a 50th birthday. A different life indeed, in a different world, but things are on the up for my dear Damian, it’s all moving forward in its own good time and I know that you all join me in wishing him every happiness and all our love on this day and for many years to come…
Now we’re going to sing, all of us, Ladies and Gentlemen… so please be upstanding and join me with a rousing traditional chorus… for Damian…. (play…’Happy Birthday’ with full Lizstian flourishes)